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Saturday 24 August 2019

Bailey demoted over swing case as pressure mounts on minister

Under-fire Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Under-fire Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Josepha Madigan. Photo: Fennell Photography 2019

Pressure is mounting on Culture Minister Josepha Madigan to reveal what advice she gave Maria Bailey before the TD launched her compensation claim over a fall from a swing.

Ms Bailey is to be "demoted" by the Taoiseach as punishment for overstating her injuries in the suit against a Dublin hotel.

She will lose her job as chairperson of the Oireachtas Housing Committee which comes with a salary top-up of €9,500.

In her first comments since an infamous radio interview, Ms Bailey said she regrets "very much" that she took the compensation case.

However, the role of Ms Madigan in the controversy is now coming under scrutiny.

Investigation

A Fine Gael investigation has confirmed she "gave initial legal advice, guidance and assisted" Ms Bailey in the early stages of the process.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin last night claimed there was "a fair degree of murkiness" about the minister's involvement in the case.

"The degree of Josepha Madigan's involvement should be fully transparent and should be clarified," said Mr Martin.

"I think the minister needs to make a full comprehensive statement in relation to that.

"At the moment we're being told that the report says she hadn't an involvement, but then we're told she was involved in the initial process. What does that mean?" Mr Martin asked.

A statement released by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ms Madigan was involved in the "preliminary" stages of the legal case and assisted Ms Bailey in making a submission to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).

"Minister Madigan did not deal with the subsequent legal proceedings," the statement said. "These were dealt with by another solicitor in the firm who acted on Deputy Bailey's instructions."

Mr Varadkar said his Dun Laoghaire deputy had been advised she had a "statable" case but had been warned about concerns that a finding of "contributory negligence" against her was likely.

Ms Bailey dropped the case after the Herald revealed she ran a 10km race in less than 54 minutes three weeks after the July 15 fall.

Legal papers lodged on her behalf had asserted that she was unable to run "at all" for three months after the incident.

In light of our reporting, Mr Varadkar hired senior counsel David Kennedy to establish "all the facts".

The report will not be published but the Taoiseach has given a brief outline of its findings.

He said Ms Bailey did sustain "painful injuries and incurred significant medical bills" after falling from a swing.

"The inquiry states that it was not a fraudulent claim," Mr Varadkar said. Mr Kennedy advised Fine Gael that it is "unlikely that a court would conclude that she [Ms Bailey] deliberately sought to mislead".

However, Mr Varadkar accepted there were "inconsistencies in Deputy Bailey's account of events to me and the media that I cannot reconcile".

"It is clear to me that Deputy Bailey made numerous errors of judgment in her handling of this matter from the outset, during and even after she'd withdrawn the case," he said.

"Her approach jars with that of a Government taking action to reduce personal injury payments. For these reasons, I am demoting her and removing her as chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing."

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